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01/12/2015 - Sprouts - Thinker : Chapter Three


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Hi Reading Excuses, here's the third chapter of a novel I've been working on.

It's around 2800 words.
Blurb for the novel: A rural hunter becomes embroiled in a rebellion against the Hands of God when he is taken to be sacrificed.
The story so far:
Chapter One: Jack was out in the tundra hunting bruskil for the Festival when he was caught off guard by the animal and injured badly, losing consciousness.  
Chapter Two: Mort infiltrates a prison to try and free a potential ally.  She is forced to hide when the prison is not as deserted as it had first seemed.
Thanks to any that read and/or critique!
Edited by Sprouts
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First, some notes:


pg 1: "Mort sighed, slid the lid of her crate off and sat up. “Who was in charge of packing the supplies again?” “I know, I know” Percy sputtered."

--new paragraph when a new person speaks


pg 2: "The thumping was cut over by the sound of voices."

--I think Robinski mentioned this before.  "Cut over" sounds strange.


pg 2: "gives me the creeps. Why do they need to wear those masks?” “Quiet Barowsky. They hear you and you’re a dead man.” “Just sayin’. They live above our laws. Nature’s even. I thought the Thinker was our God?” “C’mon man, you’re gonna get us all killed.”

--same thing here with new paragraphs for dialogue


pg 3: interesting device. Technology or magic, I wonder?  I didn't peg the tech level as high enough to create something like this.


pg 5: Contempt seems to overstate things a lot.  You describe an action, and then Contempt talks about it.  Not sure if that's on purpose, but it reads as overkill.



Overall, this kept me reading until the end.  I was a little confused with the conversation with the thinker.  Because of the reference to needles, and the all-caps voice talking about blood, I thought the machine was talking to her at first.  Then you said it was the Thinker, but I'm not sure why he would choose that moment to speak, unless it was tied to something that happened.


You also mention Sari and Barrus several times, but I don't think we've met them.  I don't know what they're good at, or what jobs they have, so it's hard for me to understand why they're being referenced and what they mean to Mort and Co.


Aside from that, it was interesting.  I'm wondering if we'll go back to Jack soon, or if Mort has another chapter.

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Great chapter, kept me interested throughout.


I agree with Mandamon that each time a new person talks you need a new line. Especially with the guards. The conversation went back and forth a few times and my eyes don't naturally see the transition between speakers so it looks like one guard talking to himself.


I like how the Hands personalities match their name, with Contempt clearing showing his Contempt towards the "Worms". I do think that you can tone down Contempt a bit though. It is clear that he is an outright evil guy, so some of the things he says are a bit much. For example, when a huge figure throws open a door and his shadow looms over the entire room, he doesn't need to say anything at all to prove he's bad news. In fact, I think he would be much more menacing if the only time he talked was to call them Worms (and maybe ask Mort about her talk with god, assuming it is important to the plot that he knows what just happened). I understand that this would mean that the reader wouldn't know Contempt's name until later, but again it might be more ominous if Mort has to ask around to find out who the new Hand in town is.


It is a little unclear where the world stands with technology. They have gunpowder and 'blasting rods', but since no one was looking for a light switch when the room was dark, I'll assume electricity is either non-existent or not well known. Which brings me to the contraption in the center of the room Mort hides in. When it comes to life I wouldn't expect the phrase "turn it off" unless they knew it was powered by electricity. So if they know about the existence of electricity then I need some way of knowing. And if they don't I would expect more fear and language that avoids on/off, so like "make it stop!" for example.


I like the fight scene, and personally had no problems guessing what the booming voice was, and I thought it was very intriguing. The thinker sounded polite, like a doctor in a way when he says "Blood reads as positive.".


The ending off the chapter is great. The fear that Mort feels from Contempt, the knockout gas, her experience with the Thinker, and Anger's approach all make for a convincing desperation for her to get the heck out. 



Lots of new information given in this chapter in a very interesting and fast paced way, keep it up!


Edit: I forgot to mention, the 'visaya bush' has stopped me cold twice now, once in ch.3 and once in 1. I googled it wondering what made the bush different than any other, but came up with nothing. Is it important that it be a certain kind of bush in both instances or can it just be referred to as 'a bush'?

Edited by LerroyJenkins
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Hi. Nice work on the chapter and interesting story and setting (at least I like dungeon crawling ;) )


A few points (and I am no expert so disregard as appropriate). I rewrote a few pieces on the fly, just to illustrate a point better than I can explain it - not to suggest anything is wrong with the writing. ^_^



Tipoff? We’ve never had a leak before

Not sure of the context here but at first I thought they were in crates that were leaking.



Sari could have supplied us with some torches at the very least

Torches in a wooden crate - are they wood?



She pulled herself out of the crate, sheathed her knife and put the small flask in her jacket pocket. Then moved towards where
she remembered the door being.

That last part is not really a sentence. You can do something like.


She sheathed her knife, put the small flask in her jacket pocket and stepped out of the crate. Turning slowly to get her bearings she moved towards where she thought the door had been.


Or if the flask isn't significant


She sheathed her knife and stepped out of the crate, turning towards a tiny lightening of the shadows. That must be the door. (in total darkness enough light might be visible from the stairwell to at least present a tiny clue - especially if they have been sitting for a while and grown acustomed to the darkness).



Getting past a Hand as experienced as him would be far from an easy task. Getting caught by him was not an option. Mort
knew first hand of the horrors he was capable of. Even better is that the man we’re out to rescue had a hand in many of those disasters.

Too many uses of the word 'hand'.



“We’ll go with what’s left of it. Sorrow should still be on one of the lower levels.” Eddrin
nodded and said “Quiet in the hallway. Should be good to go.” Mort motioned for them to follow,
then pushed through the door. The hallway was deserted. But the stairwell glowed faintly. Good.
The Hand had lit it as he descended.

I think you need to trim some of this writing and dialogue to maintain tension - are they afraid of being discovered? Also a few sentences aren't needed - the reader can figure it out so less well help maintain tension.


Eddrin nodded "Sorrow should still be on one of the lower levels.” He stepped forward cautiously, then turned towards Mort “It's quiet.” The hallway was deserted, but the stairwell downwards glowed faintly. Mort nodded then motioned for them to follow, 


Just a rough edit but words trimmed from 56 to 39 and I think that tension remain better (again I'm a noob so accept or reject my suggestion).



Mort began down it, Percy and Eddrin close behind. The stairwell curved ever so slightly left
before her as it sank deeper down into the core of the city. According to Barrus and Sari the prison
had originally been some sort of maintenance structure wrapping around one of the Athalin’s
secondary support pillars. Its oneway out layout lent itself well to a prison. They passed door after
door. Mort could faintly see cells in the gloom through their barred windows. No occupants.
Occasionally they would pass a more ornamented door with a slot for a torch or lantern above it.
Most were lit. Prison management rooms and guardrooms, most likely

Again I would trim and condense during parts where you want to suggest/maintain tension. Shorter, terser. Perhaps occasional sentence fragments. Choose words which suggest stealth and danger.


"Mort edged down the steps, Percy and Eddrin close behind. The stairwell curved down into the bowels of the city. Barrus thought the prison had originally been some sort of maintenance structure. She kept her left hand on the rough stone of the support pillar the stairs wrapped around. Dark doorways posed unknow danger and she felt her stomach tighten as she crossed each barred window. Empty. As they approached the bottom a few doors, in better repair, were lit by smoking torches. Guardrooms? Maybe."



Mort froze and listened.

Just 'Mort froze' might do. I think that some of that stuff is understood by the reader i.e. he hears a sound, and freezes. This allows you to write less and keep tension.



She pulled open the door to her left
and lept through, Percy and Eddrin close behind. Eddrin closed the door behind them with a soft
click and stepped to the side of the door, away from the small window. The guards voices echoed up
the stairwell as they clamped their way up the stairs.

Same concept trim. Shorten.


"She pulled open the door and leapt through, the others close behind. Eddrin pulled the door shut and stepped away from the small window. The guard's voices drew closer. Mort's heart matched the loud clamping of their armored feet."


I hope this is helpful. If you work your way down and trim and tighten I think you'll increase the tension a bit.


The story is moving along nicely and the setting is interesting. Keep writing. :)

Edited by stormweasel
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Thanks for reading and critiquing!



Thanks for pointing out the new-line for a new-speaker issue in the dialogue.  I'll make sure to correct it.  It seems pretty obvious to me now, but reading through a later chapter and I found it there too, so clearly it wasn't obvious to me earlier in the month.


I was actually surprised nobody mentioned the name drops of Sari and Barrus last chapter, as they felt a little extraneous to me there as well. However, I'm a little confused on how I should introduce them in these two Mort chapters.  They're the source of most of the information and knowledge that Mort and co. have access too, but I didn't think it would seem natural for Mort to think about who they were, as she already knows.  It's not new information.


To fix that, I'm thinking I could just drop the mentions of them when Mort talks about information they provided, or have a small moment early in the last chapter where I would explain their significance.  Any suggestions?  More information will definitely come in a later chapter, but I'm conflicted on how to best introduce them here, if at all.



Both you and Mandamon are right on about the Contempt over-writing issue.  I'll make sure to try and make him less overstated during revisions.


Good call on the 'turn it off' part, I didn't think of that.  


I'm glad you enjoyed the ending of the chapter.  I was worried that I spent so much time building tension that the ending would feel a little fast and underwhelming.


You're right, Visaya is just an extraneous detail.  No reason for people to think of the name of the bush every time they glance at it.  I'll trim that out during revisions.



Thanks a lot for such a detailed critique!  


I agree that I seem to have slipped back into (if I ever left?) some of my bad over-writing tendencies from Human Gods.  Trimming the sentences down with an eye to keeping things moving and tension up is definitely good advice.  I'll make sure to refer to all your individual suggestions during revisions.



Thanks again for taking the time to critique, it's highly appreciated!

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As to name drops, I don't think it's bad to have another two characters (or maybe just one) that gives them information.  But the first time you mention them you could have something like Mort remembering a certain characteristic of the person, or why they are important to her, or even something as simple as "Sari, their fence" (or whatever job she has).

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I enjoyed the tension of this episode, the action and the confrontation. The reveal of the machine is interesting. I guess they moved the guy that Mort and her crew were looking for, as Contempt knew that they were coming. He seemed a bit too easy to deal with somehow, like he forgot about Eddrin, which felt like a rookie mistake. Also, their escape from the prison was awful easy, they didn’t even see a guard or another hand – awful convenient. Where were they all?


Mort’s encounter with The Thinker was a bit curious, intriguing. He seemed very reasonable and her reaction was interesting, like it was outwith her control. The drugs seemed to have a strong effect, but short-lived, as if she wasn’t disoriented very long. Maybe she only got a slight nick.


I enjoyed the flight from the prison, thought it was well described, although rather easy, as noted. Looking forward to the next submission, detailed comments follow.


I forget who Sari is, but not an issue I'm sure if I was reading right through between submissions.


"...jacket pocket, then moved to..." - continuation of sentence.


It sounds awkward when you're talking about the Hands and you use phrases like "had a hand in" and "knew first hand", I think there are probably alternative phrases, as I think it would help flow and style to avoid that clash.


Also, "...knew first hand of the horrors he was capable of." - awkward phrasing. I would drop the first 'of'. Strictly accurate grammar would, I think, be "...knew firsthand the horrors of which he was capable." Also, you refer to the horrors as disasters, which they certainly are for the victim, but they are 'only' experiencing them i.e. passively, whereas the Hand is inflicting them. I think a more usual phrasing would be from the active (Hand's) perspective, i.e. using the word 'atrocity' instead of 'disaster'. I you think about references to Nazis or modern genocides, 'atrocity' is often the word used. (Sorry, super long paragraph for a quibble, I apologise).


I'm surprised that neither Eddrin nor Percy objects / questions going on, given that they were almost discovered. I was half-expecting an argument there.


The phrase "Percy and Eddrin close behind" seems to crop up quite often, to the point that it might be worth changing it up, by way of illustration "The other two at her heals" - or something like that.


Good tension and urgency in the description of the noise and then shadows coming up the stairs.


"Barowsky" jarred with me - very eastern European sounding name for a fantasy setting. Also, having a conversation all in one paragraph is unconventional and difficult to follow, should more properly be separate paragraphs.


Not “Him and Percy...” Percy and he, he and Percy?


“The three of them” is more streamlined if you just say “They jumped back.” Extra words just end up getting culled in the edit.


“A worm is merely a worm at the end of the day,” doesn’t sound right. This form of expression is usually qualified in some way, I would say, like “A worm with teeth is still a worm at the end of the day.”


“ground” twice in one sentence.


Mort’s internal monologue is rather pointless sometimes. She think to herself to get out, run, then she runs – seems unnecessary to me.


I would finish on “She was alive” – the next line is a beginning, which seems off to me.

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